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March 3, 2011

Senate Matters

Faculty salaries & gender: A nagging gap

Women faculty at Pitt continue to question whether the salary difference between male and female faculty members is due to gender discrimination (Faculty Assembly minutes, Sept. 7, 2010; University Times article, Jan. 6, 2011). As shown in the table below, Pitt male full professors in 2009-10 averaged $131,400 for an adjusted nine-month contract, while females averaged $118,200 for a female-to-male salary ratio of 0.900. Male associate professors averaged $86,300; females $81,100 (0.940). Male assistant professors averaged $74,300; females $66,500 (0.895).


Click image to download full-size chart.

The table shows a similar gender gap for all public Category I (doctoral) institutions and all public four-year Title IV degree-granting institutions in the United State. Thus, the gender gap in average faculty salaries is not specific to Pitt. Is it due to ingrained American cultural bias? Or are there are other reasons for it?

The gender gap within ranks has been attributed to several factors, the most important being differences in salaries and gender distribution for different academic fields (University Times, May 17, 2007, and “AAUP Faculty Gender Equity Indicators 2006” report). Information about faculty salaries in different fields at Pitt is published annually in a report to the Senate budget policies committee that lists mean and median faculty salaries in each of the University’s responsibility centers (schools). This clearly shows large differences in different fields (University Times, May 13, 2010). Nationally, information about gender distribution among academic fields is published periodically by the National Academy of Sciences and the AAUP. These sources show proportionately more men than women in higher-paying fields such as engineering, business, law and health sciences, and proportionately more women than men in lower-paying fields such as the humanities.

An often-cited but misleading and inaccurate indicator of gender salary inequity is the ratio of the average salary for all women versus all men faculty for all faculty ranks. For all public Category I schools, these salaries were $73,452 for women faculty versus $93,112 for men faculty (March-April, 2010 Academe). The resulting ratio of 0.789 is much lower than the ratios of the average salaries for women faculty versus men faculty in the three professor ranks (table above).

But this figure is not corrected for the fact that there are many more men than women in the higher salary ranks and more women than men in the lower ranks. For example, in fall 2009, there were 379 male professors and 290 male associate professors at Pitt versus 117 female professors and 144 female associate professors. In contrast, there were 256 female assistant professors and 66 female instructors versus 226 male assistant professors and 23 male instructors. These different proportions give a low skew to the average salary ratio for all women versus all men faculty.

On May 4, 2007, then-Vice Provost Patricia Beeson gave a public presentation on gender salary differences at Pitt to the Senate budget policies committee based on fall 2006 AAUP salaries (University Times, May 17, 2007). It identified the large number of women hires in recent years, the gender makeup of the academic ranks, the gender breakdown by school and academic discipline and the gender breakdown by tenure/tenure stream versus non-tenure stream as factors accounting for most of the gap at that time. When men and women faculty in the same school, discipline and rank with comparable tenure status, length of service and work record were compared, significant gender salary inequities were not observed.

Pitt has continued to close the average salary ratio gap since the 2007 study. At that time, the female-to-male average salary ratios were 0.879 for professors, 0.924 for associate professors and 0.882 assistant professors. As the table shows, the fall 2009 ratios were 0.900, 0.940 and 0.895, respectively.

However, Pitt has hired many new women faculty at the assistant professor level in recent years. New hires have lower salaries than longer-employed faculty with the same rank and academic field. This could explain why Pitt has a lower female to male assistant professor average salary ratio than all public Category I schools (0.924) and all public Title IV schools (0.936).

Pitt’s administration can take credit for improvements in gender salary equity. But Pitt and all other educational institutions have a long way to go in achieving equity at the higher ranks, especially the full professor level. The Provost’s office plans another gender salary equity study next year. We look forward to that report.

John J. Baker is past president of the University Senate and chair of the budget policies committee.

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